30 Things W.E. Love
It’s our birthday, the big 3-0. Sure, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic about all of the wines, people, brands and beverage trends we’ve watched come and go over the past three decades—it’s only natural to reminisce. But we’re also ready to celebrate all we’re sipping at the moment. With age comes the wisdom to see that the here and now is plenty exciting. With that, we raise a glass to 30 things that are hot, cool, fun and new, plus some nods to the classics.
Cheers to the next 30!
Originally called Wine Times, our first issue debuted in 1988.
1. Giving back to the community is nothing new for the wine industry, with historic auctions like Napa Valley, Hospices de Beaune and the Naples Winter Wine Festival providing millions for charities of all kinds. But more producers are making charity-forward thinking a priority, with creative, active funds spanning all manner of people, places and projects in need. These include Proud Pour, which partners with watershed restoration charities to rebuild oyster populations through sales of its Sauvignon Blanc; Equality Wines, which gives $2 of every sale of four annually produced wines to the League of Women Voters; and The Foley Family Charitable Foundation, which gave $225,000 to community foundations and housing support for agricultural workers displaced by the California wildfires. —Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa
2. Consumer willingness to look beyond Champagne or Prosecco, and choose other wines that sparkle has, well, bubbled over. From classic crémants to fresh pét-nats and German sekts, fizz of all sorts, from around the globe, has increasingly been popping up on wine lists and promoted by sommeliers, and it’s finally being recognized by consumers as a viable option for the everyday. The best part? A wider range of flavor profiles and the accessibility of worldly bubbles of quality have expanded in tandem with market demand. —Associate Editor Sarah E. Daniels
Wines to Try
Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) wines are South Africa’s version of traditional-method sparklers. They can be made from a variety of grapes, from classics like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to regional heroes like Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. —Managing Editor Lauren Buzzeo
The state’s North Coast region, especially Anderson Valley, excels at making elegant yet lush sparkling wines that balance vivid, bracing acidity with perfectly ripe fruit flavors. —Contributing Editor Jim Gordon
Made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Nero grown on midmountain slopes in northern Italy, Trentodoc’s bottle-fermented sparklers are fragrant, savory and loaded with elegance. —Italian Editor Kerin O’Keefe
3. “Wine preservation systems like the Coravin have revolutionized restaurant by-the-glass programs, encouraging somms to pour older and higher-end wines more liberally. I’m a fan of anything that turns ‘special occasion’ bottles into ‘any occasion’ bottles.” —Contributing Editor Nils Bernstein
4. “I’m so glad to see service shifting in an opening and welcoming direction. Sommeliers and retailers I’ve talked to are asking wine drinkers what they like and why, and use that as a starting point to encourage learning, exploration and drinking for sheer pleasure.” —Senior Editor Layla Schlack
5. “Though we still have so much further to go, I love that the wine world is waking up to issues of gender and ethnic diversity in our industry. People are speaking out, creating events and making new voices heard like never before. But, of course, we still have more barriers to break.” —Contributing Editor Virginie Boone
6. “As someone with a vivid mind and a crazy schedule but also a lust for life, I value low-alcohol wines. They allow me to partake of pleasure and liquid refreshment without weighing me down. They enliven rather than dampen, and bring joy without a heavy head.” —Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl, MW
7. Call 2018 the year wine tourism jumped from niche to mainstream. From traditional travel companies launching new products to wineries creating unique experiences, demand for wine-related adventure has spiked. Tour operator Black Tomato debuted Tasting Notes, a series of immersive wine-soaked culinary journeys. Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Sonoma runs vineyard hikes and cooking luncheons. Paul Cluver Wines in South Africa and Redstone Winery in Niagara, among others, throw summer concerts. The old model of spit (or sip) while crammed at a tasting bar has evolved into food pairings, comedy nights and art classes. The takeaway: Join the movement or suffer FOMO. —Contributing Editor Lauren Mowery
8. Wherever there are cool, temperate pockets in the world’s expanding wine regions, where formerly chilly slopes are getting just warm enough, brave souls will risk their hearts, fortunes and minds to plant Pinot Noir. More often than not, this works out beautifully, producing elegant wines of subtle expression. What a blessed notion that this ancient Burgundian grape, so anchored in its place, should travel so well and reward us with ever more nuances of its eternal magic. —Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl, MW
As in Burgundy, many Oregon Pinots are site specific, clone specific and vintage sensitive. Look for bright berry and cherry fruit, texture, length and detail. From first sniff to last sip, overall balance is paramount.—Contributing Editor Paul Gregutt
Spätburgunder, the German name for Pinot Noir, offers the acidity, finesse and savoriness of Burgundian offerings, but often with a boost of concentration from the uniquely temperate climates in Germany’s red-wine regions. —Contributing Editor Anna Lee C. Iijima
Depending on the region, Kiwi Pinot Noirs range from long-lived beauties laced with brambly red berries, game, flowers and herbs to slightly riper “drink now” drops that ooze juicy, plummy fruit and baking spices. —Contributing Editor Christina Pickard
9. While cork has long been the wine closure of choice, a percentage (as much as 3–6%) has had a contaminant: trichloroanisole (TCA) or cork taint. It ruins the wine the moment the stopper is put in the bottle, resulting in moldy basement, wet newspaper or cardboard aromas and flavors.
Help is on the way. For a number of years, Diam has sold composite corks guaranteed to be taint free. More recently, companies like M.A. Silva and Amorim have started offering natural corks individually tested for TCA. Bottom line: Expect to see fewer cork-tainted wines making their way into your glass in the coming years. —Contributing Editor Sean P. Sullivan
10. Despite their destructive nature, some volcanoes around the globe have left behind a palate-pleasing legacy. Strong acidity, earthiness and a sense of salinity are common factors of wines grown in volcanic soils, which may contain pumice, ash, basalt or lava. The extremely porous, mineral-rich soil composition adds a layer of flavor and texture to wine that excites the palate. It’s no surprise that indigenous grapes thrive in volcanic soils on Sicily’s Mt. Etna, on the Greek island of Santorini and in Spain’s Canary Islands, but international varieties are also grown in ash-enriched earth around California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma and Lake Counties. —Contributing Editor Mike DeSimone
11. We love to think pink, but not all are created equal.
Stroll along any seaside promenade in Provence, the French Riviera, the California Coast and even the Hamptons, and you will pass plenty of places where people are drinking rosé. It’s a natural pairing, sun, sand and rosé. It’s the perfect image of the idyllic getaway moment.
In under 10 years, Americans have embraced the category in a big way, and the U.S. is now the number one export market for Provençal rosé. We want more, so producers are jumping on the “yes way” wave, with countless new brands from varying countries hitting retail shelves to satiate market demand. Until recently, the mantra has been if it’s pink, it’ll sell. But here and now, we call for the return to premium, high-quality rosé, because life’s too short to drink bad pink stuff. —European Editor Roger Voss
Wines to Try
Provençal rosé is pale as can be, with just a hint of color. It’s always dry, and Grenache is typically the key grape. Minerality, red berry fruitiness and richness combine with crisp acidity and a nuanced finish in the top wines. —Roger Voss
Central Coast, California
Pink is no longer simply a byproduct of red-wine production. Most Central Coast producers are now growing grapes specifically for rosé production, which from here boasts high acidity, grippy texture and ripe berry flavors. —Contributing Editor Matt Kettmann
Tavel, Rhône Valley
Tavel is the structured, deeper-hued cousin of the millennial-pink summer waters. Full bodied and delicately tannic, Tavel offers penetrating flavors of red berry nuanced by blood orange, spice and garrigue. —Contributing Editor Anna Lee C. Iijima
12. A decade or two ago, aging wines in new oak was as commonplace as ice cream in summer. In vogue was the term “200% new oak,” meaning entire batches of wines were being put into new barrels and then moved to other new barrels prior to bottling.
But times have changed, and many old and traditional fermentation and aging methods are becoming new again. A growing number of winemakers are fixated on freshness. To achieve desired results, they are turning to more neutral vessels for fermenting and aging their wines. From Argentina to Austria, cement tanks, open-top plastic and fiberglass bins, clay amphorae and large-format, used oak are the rage, with new oak being marginalized or eliminated altogether. —Spanish and South American Editor Michael Schachner
13. “I love sour beers because they are the antithesis of hop-heavy IPAs and the ultimate high-acid, wine-lover’s beer. Tart, fruity, layered, complex and supremely refreshing, they’re also the perfect cure for summer rosé fatigue.” —Assistant Tasting Director Fiona Adams
14. “There’s such a strong quality-beverage culture right now, and it’s wonderful to see the proliferation of proud cross drinkers, or folks who are eager and willing to thoughtfully enjoy spirited selections across all categories. Wine, beer, spirits and cider—what’s good is good, period. No sides need to be taken. We can all just get along and drink together.” —Managing Editor Lauren Buzzeo
15. “While the cider category is dominated by fruity, mostly sweet offerings made from bulk fruit, a growing number of producers are exploring a more vinous approach, utilizing heritage apples to create ciders that have a better balance of acidity, tannin and complexities of flavor.” —Tasting Director Alexander Peartree
16. “Dipping into a bottle of 1961 gin or an amaro from the 1920s used to be a rare experience offered to few. I love that more bars are offering “dusty” cocktails, which use aged spirits, or pouring them neat. It’s truly history in a bottle and such a fun education.” —Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa
17. “I’m a fan of no-waste cocktails, which utilize bar and kitchen scraps that would otherwise land in the trash to make syrups, infusions and garnishes. I love that the no-waste movement is inspiring creativity while helping the environment.” —Spirits Editor Kara Newman
18. Winemakers the world over have embraced earth-friendly production practices, and not just because of the benefits to the environment. They recognize that wine produced with minimal to no manipulation, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides resonates with consumers. Indeed, bottles emblazoned with buzzwords like “biodynamic,” “organic” and “natural” have become synonymous with great wine, but what do these terms actually mean? Below is a cheat sheet to get you going to greener glory. —Digital Content Director Marina Vataj
Generally grown without the addition of chemicals in the vineyard or bottle, these certified wines are made with organic or native yeast and contain little to no sulfites. Wines labeled “made from organic grapes” do not require the use of organic yeasts.
Farmers who follow the principles, regulations, preparations and calendar of biodynamics treat the vineyard—including soil, plants and animals—as interconnected, rooted in the work of philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Farmers maintain a holistic approach, with no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides.
This catch-all category means that grapes are grown with few chemicals and additives, and the wines are produced with minimal harm to the environment.
Produced with grapes grown on sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards, these wines have minimal chemical or technological manipulation, use wild or native yeasts for fermentation and contain little to no sulfites.
19. “Right now, I am loving stems in my wine. I can’t get enough of the complexity that California winemakers are giving to their Pinot Noir and Syrah wines by putting whole clusters into the fermenters. Stems add an exotic, funky, woodsy complexity that can’t be ignored.” —Contributing Editor Jim Gordon
20. “Despite occupying a small slice of the wine pie, natural wines have gone from the fringe to the fore, infiltrating lists everywhere, enticing a new generation of drinkers with their creative, grassroots vibe. Love or hate them, natty wines are changing the wine game!” —Contributing Editor Christina Pickard
21. Although the word “mocktail” is cringe-worthy, the growing universe of excellent nonalcoholic cocktails is truly a glorious thing. Creative bartenders have taken the zero-proof concept far beyond the Shirley Temple: The newest ones are sophisticated, with plenty of acidity, complexity and nuance, and they’re presented with flair.
It helps that bartenders have access to a widening range of ingredients, such as vinegar-based shrubs, high-end mixers and non-alcoholic distillates. Consider, for example, the Faux 75, created by Clover Club proprietor Julie Reiner: an ounce each of lemon juice and simple syrup topped up with Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon soda approximates the bubbly, citrusy French 75. —Spirits Editor Kara Newman
22. “Whether clearing out old inventory or intended as proof of their ageability, library releases can provide an educational as well as a hopefully pleasurable experience. Taste one bottle before buying more, and remember that older bottles of the same wine may age differently.” —Contributing Editor Paul Gregutt
23. “At the moment, I’m enjoying the vibrant Nebbiolos from Alto Piemonte. These are all about fragrance, finesse, terroir and balance. They also boast ageworthy structures, so I’m also laying some down in my cellar to drink over the next 10 to 15 years.” —Italian Editor Kerin O’Keefe
24. “Classic wine regions, like Champagne and Bordeaux, are back in a big way, because they’re producing a range of wines that are approachable yet still possess that revered Old World charm.” —Digital Content Director Marina Vataj
25. Looking for a classy wine under $20? Consider the classics. That’s the French regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Rhône, to start. These great wine regions, with their long traditions and extensive experience with iconic grapes, have upped their game to give us exciting wines at seriously affordable price points. Winemakers have revolutionized organic vineyards and state-of-the-art research and techniques.
Prefer indigenous grapes? Try Touriga Nacional from Portugal’s Douro Valley, Sangiovese from Chianti, or Tempranillo from Rioja in Spain. As a bonus, you get European wine history and a story with great taste. Not a bad blend, in my opinion. —European Editor Roger Voss
26. Canned wines have crossed the threshold from a trendy novelty, and quality boxed wine has actually become “a thing.” Though glass is still the industry standard, alternative packaging as a delivery system of well-made wine seems more and more acceptable to both makers and consumers. Common options include the bag-in-box, canned wines, Tetra Pak, pouches, tubes and, of course, on tap. Lower production costs, increased potential for experimentation, convenience and a lessened carbon footprint are among the benefits to ditching the bottle. So raise a glass—or a box—to the nontraditional ways wine is now available. —Associate Editor Sarah E. Daniels
27. “I’m constantly blown away by the array of grape varieties showing their face on the Central Coast. This growing trend of planting nontraditional grapes in established regions is creating some really eye-opening, quality wines that challenge the status quo.” —Contributing Editor Matt Kettmann
28. “California and the Pacific Northwest are no longer the only all-stars of American wine. Though all 50 states have winemaking legacies, producers nationwide have upped their game to craft distinctive, high-quality bottlings.” —Associate Editor Sarah E. Daniels
29. “I love that so many countries are unearthing ancient varieties that show a unique and historic expression of their land. My favorite recent finds include Saperavi and Rkatsiteli from Georgia, Turkish Öküzgözü and Boğazkere, and Marawi and Bituni from Israel.” —Contributing Editor Mike DeSimone
30. For most of the 20th century, gin meant one thing: the piny, juniper snap of London dry. When bottlings like rose-and-cucumber-scented Hendrick’s and lavender-infused Aviation hit the market, it sparked a surge in botanical curiosity. Now gin is available in more styles—including those that channel specific regions or countries, as well as barrel-aged versions. With this wide variety of nuanced offerings, more bar programs are turning their attention to gin-based cocktails and seriously stepping up their G&T game. Such a vast assortment of gins available in more drinks and places makes it a very exciting time to be a gin drinker. —Senior Editor Layla Schlack
- 1#1 Wines That Gives Back
- 2#2 Buying Bubbles From All Over the World
- 3#3-6 Industry Trends
- 4#7 Flourishing Eno-Tourism
- 5#8 Pinot Noir Continues to Conquer
- 6#9 Taint Free Corks
- 7#10 Volcanic Wines are Blowing Up
- 8#11 Premium Rosés Hit the Shelves
- 9#12 Producers are Going Back to Winemaking’s Roots
- 10#13–17 Beer, Cider, Spirits and Cocktails
- 11#18–20 Natural Wines are Taking Over
- 12#21 Marvelous Mocktails
- 13#22–24 What’s New in the Classic Regions
- 14#25 Value Wines from Classic Regions
- 15#26 Alternative Packaging
- 16#27–29 Under Represented Wine Regions
- 17#30 New and Improved Gin